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Did the Leafs really trade Jonathan Bernier for nothing?

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Now that we know the conditions on the pick traded for Jonathan Bernier, it's possible to look at the Leafs goaltending moves as one combined exchange of assets.

Frozen moments in time are often not kind to goalies.
Frozen moments in time are often not kind to goalies.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, much was made for a few moments in the doldrums of summer over the news that the conditional draft pick in the Jonathan Bernier trade was not very likely to ever be received by Toronto. It's not impossible, but it's a big long shot.

This led to people exclaiming, with various levels of seriousness and attendant outrage, that Bernier was traded for nothing and obviously the Leafs management is a failure, the rebuild is a failure and Oilerdom looms.

That's obviously silly. At the very least it's clear that the Bernier deal was part of the Frederik Andersen trade and the conditional pick was the mere token used in the second half of that trade to keep the "traded for nothing" narrative from being literally true, if still misleading.

Instead of focusing on this one small aspect of the Leafs' goalie moves, I wanted to look at the larger picture of all of the trades and take an accounting approach. I'm not going to make you learn debits and credits; this is balance sheet stuff.

It's not about winning and losing the trade, it's about the asset position then vs. now.

Then:

Before the trade deadline last year the Leafs had a stack of draft picks and the following players taking up current and/or future cap space and roster slots:

Name

Cap Hit

Contract Status

James Reimer

2,300,000

pending UFA

Jonathan Bernier

4,150,000

UFA in 2017

Nick Spaling

2,200,000

pending UFA

Roman Polak

2,750,000

pending UFA

Total

11,400,000


I'm including those last two players, because they were intrinsically linked to the Reimer trade. I can't prove it, but I don't think you can separate the deals out, so a portion of their proceeds are payment for the important part of the deal for San Jose: and insurance backup for Matin Jones.

The San Jose trades:

Leafs acquire from San Jose

Leafs give

Raffi Torres

Nick Spaling

2017 2nd round pick

Roman Polak

2018 2nd round pick

Ben Smith

James Reimer

Alex Stalock

Jeremy Morin

2018 3rd round pick


Torres was loaned back to San Jose and then became UFA, so he is irrelevant. Alex Stalock and Ben Smith both became UFAs after contributing to the team to one degree or another. Jeremy Morin never played in the NHL, so his cap hit was never at issue, and he was also a pending UFA.

At this point the leafs have done the following to their table of assets:

Future Cap Hit

unchanged

Picks

+ 3

Future Roster spots

unchanged


They lowered their 2015-2016 cap hit by a considerable amount, but not by removing any players who were under contract beyond that year. San Jose paid three picks for three rentals, and by my valuation about half of one was for Spaling and two-thirds of the other was for Polak.

The purpose of the trade was to move James Reimer for some gain, since it now seems in retrospect that the team had decided they did not want him in their system. They were, at the time of this trade, already scouting Andersen and trying to make a deal for him.

The Anaheim trades:

Leafs acquire from Anaheim

Leafs give

Frederik Andersen (technically his rights, conditional on his signing an extension)

2016 1st round pick

2017 2nd round pick (believed to be the San Jose pick acquired above)

Jonathan Bernier

$2,000,000 discount on Bernier's salary for 2016-2017


The results of this deal are:

2016-17 Cap Hit

+ 850,000

Picks

- 2

Roster spots

unchanged


Taking the two results tables together, the total change in the Leafs table of assets was: a decrease to the cap space for the coming year of $850,000 and an increase of one pick. Plus they paid $2,000,000 to a player who is no longer on the roster, but that's just cash, and Toronto doesn't worry about that.

That pick increase needs to be looked at in more detail. It is the exchange of one low first round pick for a second and a third of unknown, but not likely high quality. That seems like a negative for Toronto, not a positive. But taking the worst case scenario where San Jose wins the Stanley Cup in 2018, one draft pick valuer places the value of their two picks as a small gain for the Leafs over a 30th overall. I'm happy to call it a wash.

And the new roster is:

Name

Cap Hit

Contract Status

Frederik Andersen

$5,000,000

UFA in 2021

???


To complete the picture, the Leafs have to add a backup goaltender, so they will finish up this goalie swapping with one extra, probably short-term cap hit and roster spot taken.

They have also added Kasimir Kaskisuo, and have re-signed Garret Sparks, so the total goaltenders in the system right now has not changed, but may at least temporarily go up by one if that backup is signed.

The final difference in goaltending assets is that the cap and SPC space has been redistributed from a tandem of goalies the Leafs management were not satisfied with to a starter they sought out and a reasonably young prospect who may amount to something someday but doesn't cost anything in cap space right now in the AHL.

Conclusion

I don't know if they won or lost each individual trade, but the state of things now is very little changed in anything but the term invested in Andersen. How you view the change in value of the Leafs' goaltending depends on how you rate the future play of all of the goalies invlolved.

If you want to put a positive spin on it you could say that the Leafs turned an overpaid backup and a UFA marginal starter into a locked down starting goaltender at the cost of what normal people pay a fourth liner.

I think it's an improvement of a modest amount, matching almost exactly the modest amount spent. The long term commitment is simply the cost of doing business when signing a starting goaltender, and it has benefits in stability and certainty as well as risks if the gamble on future play is wrong and depreciation catches up with Andersen sooner than anyone wants.

So, no, Jonathan Bernier wasn't traded for nothing, and the deal isn't very big once you strip out the minor characters cluttering up the plot. How the story ends will be told once some games are actually played, where winning and losing really do matter.